30 March 2007

What a review

There are several books over there on the right that I've finished recently but haven't reviewed, mostly for utter laziness and no other reason. Each is worthy of a good review and I hope to write them this weekend, perhaps even this evening. Stay tuned.

In any event, you'll note all four of them are travel or adventure writing. No fiction. Haven't had the yen to pull out a fiction book in a while, though I did just start reading Snow Crash for the umpteenth time because I love it. I do want to read fiction now, and I read a review of what sounded like a very interesting book in, of all places, The Economist this afternoon. The book is called Salmon Fishing in the Yemen. Sounded interesting. I had to pre-order it, since it's a British book that's due in the States until next week. If I wait til next week, I'll forget to buy it.

While looking around at other reading I happened upon Special Topics in Calamity Physics, which was evidently very strongly pimped by its publisher when it came out last summer (O Djibouti, Thou hast made me miss so much pop culture) as a wonderful new thing. I'm leery of wonderful new things, which often tend to be less wonderful than advertised.

I did not choose to purchase this book (I bought Absurdistan instead, since you have to buy two things to get the free shipping. Amazing; if I'd paid for shipping and only bought one book I'd have saved fifteen bucks overall. How do they do this to us?). The reviews were generally pretty lousy, 2.5 out of 5 as the average. Many reviewers gave the book a 1. I noticed fairly quickly that the first few reviews, which were amazingly positive (and pretentious at the same time, one of the criticisms of the book) were from within days after the book's publishing. Not enough for people to have genuinely read the book. The reviewers were (shock!) anonymous. Sony got sued for faking reviews of their movies, but then Sony faked the reviews and used said fake reviews to sell the movies; this is a bit more nebulous and difficult to prove, but it certainly seems as though the publisher added a couple positive reviews in days immediately after the book came out to boost buyer confidence. It's an anonymous forum and, technically, the reviews on BN.com or Amazon do not qualify as advertising. I wonder what the legal status of this sort of thing is.

Anyway. Barring the first few reviews which were almost assuredly fake, the positive reviews of the book were all notable for their backhanded compliments. Such as this one:
If you can get past the pretentiousness of the writing, you are in for a real treat.
I don't get that. If I have to "get past" something in the story, I'm not going to read it or enjoy it. If you read a restaurant review that said, "If you can past the awful taste, dining at Barth's Cafe is a pleasurable experience," would you go? I doubt it. Another favorite review of the book said that the prose itself was
a delight to read for it's own sake, regardless of where the story is headed.
Which is to say, of course, that this particular story isn't really headed anywhere. O-kay. I'm just jumping out of my chair to buy this, let me tell you. This one here is my favorite of all--and it's from one of the fake reviews:
Finally, a book worth the effort of reading it.
Excuse me? Worth the effort of reading it? Look, I put a lot of effort into writing things so that you the reader don't have to make a great effort to read them. That's the goal here. I wouldn't bother reading something that took a great deal of effort... well, except for I Am Charlotte Simmons; trying to finish that book caused actual physical pain, but I couldn't properly skewer it if I didn't read it, right? Right.

Anyway. Dear reader, I have a book I'm looking to publish, and I do hope it doesn't take you a great deal of effort to read it. If it does, please, put it down and tell me to hang up the pencil.

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